Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Giving Away Free Stuff on Craigslist

It's Tuesday and I am in the city, still groggy from the Excedrin PM I took last night to take the edge off the sleeplessness that I experience now when I come here. I am just as sleepless as when I first came to New York. Now the insomnia feels as if I am lying down in a train station instead of in bed, needing to get going already but unable to do so, with one foot nervously jiggling in the air and the other foot stretching out to touch down elsewhere.

Today I am giving stuff away for free on Craig's list. I am un-grasping, letting go of familiar objects, giving my heart the unfamiliar pleasure of giving stuff away easily to complete strangers. Nice stuff. And I know that even the smallest stuff comes with responsibility, so be careful before inviting it into your life: You will have to deal with your stuff eventually.  I am not the sort of person who can just leave heaps of things I have owned on the curb,  things that have me and my life force all over them. For me, everything must be placed with care.

After FF and I moved most of my stuff out, I  had some success selling stuff. And I am still holding out for some money for the fax machine that I think should be at least worth $20, even though it is one of the old heat sensitive paper kind. And I am also still holding out for a few bucks on the great shelf units. But I am giving away everything else, and I have discovered that giving things away can be an interesting and sometimes complicated process.

It's never just the stuff,  it's the people who go with the stuff.

The Free DVDs: Proof that no gift goes unpunished.

First of all, take the action movie DVDs I gave away. What am I doing with these things anyway? I can't stand most action flicks. A friend, doing me a good turn when I was ill, brought me this stack of bootlegged action movies, two of which I watched and the rest of which I never did watch because I don't care for blood-spattered entertainment like Kill Bill and Rambo III. So I tucked them away on a bookshelf and there they sat until I was packing boxes and suddenly this stack of DVDs is staring at me as if to ask, What now? I just couldn't see carting them forward with me. So I posted them on Craigslist.

Immediately, I mean within nanoseconds, nearly a dozen people responded, desperate for my free DVDs. I started answering them in order with a phone number, first call first serve, I wrote. But the mails kept coming in, I couldn't keep up, and I was feeling like Mickey in the Sorcerer's Apprentice (what Genie had I unleashed?). So I went to Craigslist to delete the post. I was waiting for the first call, but no one called: They are only emailed me by the hundreds asking when could they pick up the DVDs, like their dialing fingers had fallen off or something. I was wondering, are there people out there who spend all day looking for free stuff on Craigslist and who also coincidentally have forgotten how to use phones? Finally, someone followed instructions, called me, I made an arrangement with him and the DVDs were taken.

Meanwhile, a woman who has been emailing me persistently but not calling, finally calls. I tell her the DVDs are gone, and to my utter amazement, she unleashes her fury upon me, upbraiding me for not keeping the (free) DVDs for her, because she had told me she wanted them and it didn't seem fair that.... blah blah blah.

I just kept saying  "I see....I see....I see". And she finally hung up.


The Free Clock.

This little brass clock was given to me by the publisher of Sports Illustrated magazine when I was still a puppy working at the magazine wearing linen skirts and pink angora sweaters. I remember that the staff got clocks that Christmas of 1988 when they stopped giving out decent bonuses. As I look back, that was the beginning of the financial predicament  we find ourselves in today. Anyway, I've had this clock around for years and I decided to give it away. Again I posted. Again about a dozen people responded within nanoseconds.  Wiser this time, I first deleted the posting and then set about responding. This time I wrote, MUST call to get this item; first-call, first-serve.

The phone rang and Lana was on the other end, telling me how cute my clock was and how much she wanted it. It warmed my heart that she was already so fond of my clock so, okay, we set up a morning appointment for today which, she missed because she had lost her phone (and did not have a clock?). So she called me desperate asking did I still have the clock, and I became aware of the massive importance my free clock had all at once assumed in the heart and mind of this complete stranger. Yes, I still have the clock I said, still drowsy from the Excedrin PM. I'll be right over, Lana, said.

Lana looked very much like Pam in the TV show "The Office" without the ironic twist. She appeared at my door with a waif-like child with unevenly cut bangs in tow, and she told me she was a painter and was also getting married -- in December. She enthused over my wonderful clock, and how wonderful my apartment was, and then told me about a few serious problems she was having with her boyfriend. As I took in the worry lines on her forehead and around her eyes, I realized that Lana really needed this clock for reasons that I could feel but not understand.   I handed it to her gently,  and I told her and the waif-child "Remember, you're in charge of this clock now! When you look at it, remember that it's saying 'Have a good time!'" Lana smiled, looking like a lost but hopeful little girl.

Goodbye, Lana. Have a good time.

The Free Tomahawk. 

When Joe called, he spoke in that particularly Nuyorican way that seems so gentle, serious and naive, that I could not say no to him.  The tomahawk was given to me by my ex at the very end of our 11 year relationship, and I still wonder what that gift was all about: Please kill me with a blow to the head? Anyway, Joe told me he had a country house in the Poconos where he had a whole wall of Native American artifacts including a dream catcher. I could imagine Joe's house: Lots of chatzkies everywhere, and all precious to him. Joe was stout, with thick glasses and and a shirt that read "Orgullo Taino" and he stood there simply and gratefully in my doorway as I laid the tomahawk in his big, outstretched, laborer's hands.

You're in charge of this now, Joe, I told him gravely. He held it solemnly and said, Thank you so much. Then after a pause, he said, This is going to look beautiful on my wall. He held it up in the air against an imaginary wall,  as if to show me the angle he would hang it at.  Thank you so much, said Joe.

You are welcome, Joe, I said. It's yours to care for now.  Yes, ma'am, he said, and he stumped sturdily down the stairs.

Free Gig Bags!!!

I should have known that advertising free gig bags would provoke a cascade of desperate threadbare musicians, begging for the break they never got. Within mili-nanoseconds of posting "free: two gig bags, mic stand bag and assorted other bags" I had about 60 emails to respond to, and so once again I deleted the posting quickly and this time I chose the winner randomly.

Within the hour,  Roy arrived, head crowned by an Eraser Head-like  bush of gray hair and circles under his eyes of Dostoyevskyan proportions.  To my surprise, Roy picked up all the bags and then quickly attempted to pick me up at the same time. I am getting married, I said, at the end of this month. Ah, he said, letting go of his romantic idea immediately. Just my luck! he exclaimed, throwing up his hands comically. Well,  you really are a marvelous person, he remarked, your future husband is very lucky. And he turned on his heel and exited smartly, leaving me speechless at his fluid ability to change gears.

Then there was Emily, poor Emily. She sooooo wanted the acoustic bag, but she woke up late. And then, she told me, she lost her phone and found it again (what is it with people losing phones? Don't they have alarm clocks any more?). And then she had to go to her freelance job in Grand Central Station (?), and couldn't come until next week, because she had to cat sit in Queens, and more stories end upon end that I quickly forgot. Poor Emily! I had to give those bags to Roy.  When I counted, I saw that Emily had written me close to 20 emails in her mad confusion and hot desire for my free gig bags, and I felt really bad about having to give them to someone else. But  you can sense when a person is utterly surrounded by a shit-storm of chaos and bad luck, and generally it's best not to get too close to such people.

Disappointed though Emily was, however, she wrote  in her last missive: ty so mucho Dorothy :-) Appreciate, gracias tan mucho -- gotta go not be tooo late, TY true, Em. 

TY True. Wow.

The Free Bureau. 

And so did I drop in the garbage a few pair of worn out cotton undies that had somehow survived previous purges, a few pairs of socks (elastic shot), and a very old bikini. Thus did I empty and write upon the list of Craig under New York / For Sale / Free Stuff my good old wooden chest of drawers.

This chest of drawers was given to me by music producer and friend who I'll call Nacho. He had produced Ricky Martin, along with a bunch of other stars -- and me, too, once. Indeed, he had carried this big wood box up the stairs and placed it in my bedroom as one of the last acts he ever did on my behalf before he placed me firmly in his past and disappeared.This chest of drawers is not coming with me for the same reason I never saw Nacho again. It belongs here in New York City, it belongs in my past.

It took longer,  about 10 minutes, for a free, real wood chest of drawers to find a taker and when it did, it was one single person who wrote me with her phone number. I called her.

Hello, I said, you wrote me about the chest of drawers? Ah, yeah, whancooneye kuhmn pikitoop? She said. What? I said. Ah, fahkin Metro PCEhssss! She hissed. Um, I am only here today, I said slowly as if speaking with a cobra, can you come today? Ahhhh, she sighed exasperatedly, eefeye fine ma boyFREN tookum ELP may, ah kin kuhm TOOdeh! she cried. Good, good! I encouraged her. How about three o'clock? Ahhhhh, yisssss! she exclaimed, zeeess PURRhops ees fur may PUSSIbell. Ahhhhh....

And she hung up.

At approximately 3:30 she called back. Yissss, ah kin kuhm now. Ahm findin mah boyFREN! she remarked. OK, I said. What is your name anyway? MAHree, she said, and hung up.

When I opened the door to Marie and her boyfriend, Melvin, you could have knocked me over with a feather because she looked like me. I mean ALOT like me, except she was thin as a rail (as I was 28 years ago) wearing a thin muscle shirt over her bra-less torso (as I did 28 years ago) and had a pale, slightly hectic look about her round, pixie-ish face. Wow, I said.

Ehhh, yeah, we kuhmin fur dee byooROE? She asked. You look familiar, I said, have we met before? yew ever beaneen pahrEESSS? she hissed questioningly. Yes, I have been, I said. Come on in.

And Melvin, who was a tall well-built black man, easily hoisted most of the drawers on his shoulder and glided off down the stairs. (goodbye, goodbye). Marie and I experimented with hoisting the rest of the bureau and carried it to the front door where she put down her end of it. Ahm afraid uhv mah shooossss, Marie sighed, rolling her eyes and pointing down at the floor where her stick thin white legs jutted into insanely high black wedgie booties. But fortunately Melvin reappeared magically and hoisted the rest of my bureau onto his shoulder as if it were a book bag, and took off down the stairs without a word followed by the wobbling white stick of Marie.

I listened to the sound of their footsteps fade away down the stairs and I waited, standing at the open door thinking they would come back up, say something like thanks for the free bureau, we'll take care of it -- or something like that. I thought I'd get to say to them, it's your responsibility now. Or maybe tell Marie that Ricky Martin's producer hauled that bureau up these very stairs for me. Or something. Instead, it was just dead quiet in the hallway. So I closed the door and came in.

Sometimes, to some people, stuff is just stuff.


Anonymous said...

I am trying to give away firewood' How do I do that? Hampton, Va., area. As you can see Iam not craigslist savvy.

Leyo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Leyo said...

Great blog with great information, simply awesome.craigslist seattle

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

Cant say ive had good ecperience with Craigslist AT ALL!!! People seem to put up garbage as a joke for those less fortunate...putting up posts of broken broom you cant even use, i rather ddeal with freecycle,less posts but real ones and better moral quality people.